Fairfield County Homes for Sale: November 2012

History of Black Rock 1836-1936 Chapter 1 of 4

Black Rock Historic Map 1649-1700The source of the information in this post is from a souvenir booklet published by the Black Rock Business Men's Club in 1936 to celebrate Bridgeport's Centennial.

HISTORIC SEAPORT FOR FAIRFIELD

Black Rock, during the seventeenth and eighteen centuries, was the seaport of the Town of Fairfield.  Black Rock was not part of Bridgeport at that time.  The change in municipalities occurred later on.  In fact, the financial and political prestige of Fairfield was due to the deep water seaport located in Black Rock Harbor.  In those days, nearly every home in the village of Black Rock was owned by a sea-captain and some of those homes exist to this day.

COLONIAL DAYS

The original settlements were in the vicinity of what is now known as the Town of Fairfield.  Roger Ludlowe established the Town of Fairfield in 1639.  Another settlemen to the Northeast was made in the Stratfield area and was connected to Fairfield by what is now known as King's Highway.  East of Fairfield at the tip of the peninsula formed by two creeks and the Sound was a settlement known as Black Rock village - named for the black rocks along the shoreline.  For three generations it was owned by one family, the Wheelers.  

A map from 1639 - 1700 shows Ash Creek as Uncoway River or Ash-house Creeke.  In place of the Fairfield Avenue bridge there is an area shown as "Wading Place."  Swamps are shown at the base of Old Battery Road near Gilman Street, in the area of Harborview Avenue, Livingston Street, Montgomery Place, and Longfellow School.  "Money Beach" is shown on the map where the shoreline of Anchorage Street is located.  Despite its name no one has found buried treasure at the beach, although some have tried.  A meadow is shown in the area where the Anchorage condominiums were built.  The barrier spit is shown on the map and Great Marsh Island.  A wharf was located across from the barrier spit, where a deep channel now runs to the South Benson Marina.

PENFIELD MILL AND TRADING

After 1730 trading brought activity to the Ash Creek area.  In 1733, Peter Thorp and Ebenezer Dimon were given liberty to set a warehouse at the lower end of the creek.  In 1750,Peter Penfield was authorized to establish his mill there.  Mills would continue to exist there for the next century.  In 1753, a new bringe was proposed and new roads planned to shorten the distance between Fairfield center and the ship harbor.

A bridge was built across Ash Creek, the stone foundation of which can still be viewed today, if you look across Ash Creek from the base of Balmforth Street.  A road led from the bridge across the location of Balmforth Street to Grover Avenue and then on to Black Rock Harbor.

RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT

The lands along Grovers Avenue were pastures at that time.  David Wheeler, III, took over ten acres of meadow from his father and deed to the town two streets that led from Grovers Avenue to the harbor.  He divided the land up into lots and pointed out the advantages to the sea captains of building a home near the harbor.  Captain Thomas Bartram built the home shown above in 1801 (located at 427 Brewster Street).

WHARVES AND SHIPPING

There were three wharves, Upper Wharf located where the Fayerweather Yacht Club now stands, Middle Wharf located near the foot of Beacon Street, and Squires Wharf located at the end of Anchorage Street.  Each of these wharves had a store or warehouse with sheds, chandlery, and tackle for loading and unloading ships.  The wharves were also the places where news came from other areas and people gathered to discuss issues.  There was also news via the post riders from Boston, who would come down King's Highway.

AMERICAN REVOLUTION

Black Rock Historical Map 1812The closing of Boston harbor threatened the livelihoods of the traders, ship captains, ship builders, wharf owners in Black Rock.  Their patriotism turned from King to Colony.  They fortified the coastline.  In 1776 a fort was erected on Grovers Hill to protect the mouth of the harbor and to protect the Penfield mills and bakehouse on Ash Creek. 

POST-WAR PROSPERITY

After the American Revolution, Black Rock became prosperous.  Ships brought molasses and rum from the West Indies, tea from China, and even trees and plants from various areas of the world, some of which exist to this day in Black Rock.  In 1819, there were less than 100 residents in the village of Black Rock including 14 sailors and 14 sea captains.

WAR OF 1812

Another fort was built just above the old one in 1812 after a threated invasion by two armed British frigates.  The war passed without any invasion of Black Rock, but the trade to the West Indies dropped off and Bridgeport and New York harbors began to attract more commerce.  The old shipyard continued to service sloops and schooners.  There was a wagon shop and a cooperage.  The wharves were still used, but the focus was turning to industry.

BLACK ROCK BECOMES PART OF BRIDGEPORT

Manufacturing developments created increased prosperity for Bridgeport.  In 1870, an act of legislature extended the Bridgeport boundary to Ash Creek.  A turpentine factory was built at the end of Brewster, where the Fayerweather Yacht Club now stands.  Near the site of the old fort on Battery Park Drive, a summer hotel called, "The George Hotel" was built.

 

 



 

 

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Comment balloon 3 commentsGail Robinson • November 25 2012 04:06PM
History of Black Rock 1836-1936 Chapter 1 of 4
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